Re: Re: ‘Dutch Billys’

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We’re jumping around here a bit, but that great Anthony Chearnley view of Cork just wants drooling over some more.

A detail of Chearnley’s view of c. 1748 above and the 1764 map of Cork below (rotated to roughly correspond to Chearnley’s view point (marked in red).

Earlier we looked at the variety of Billys on Merchants Quay, above is the central section of Chearnley’s prospect with Lavitt’s quay in the foreground, (from the channel that was to become Patrick’s Street on the left to the Custom House on the right). It seems clear from Chearnley’s engraving that the mainstay of the recent urban developments extending Cork City eastward onto the former marsh lands were terraces of Dutch Billys. The arc of future Patrick Street in the middle distance and what I take to be Sullivan’s Quay on the opposite side of the south channel in the background beyond, are both predominantly lined by reasonably uniform terraces of Billys.

It could be argued that Chearnley was using a Speed style shorthand, or that he was anticipating development that hadn’t happened yet (as apparently was the case with Brooking’s 1728 depiction of Sir John Rogerson’s quay), but neither reservation really stands up. The similar ‘View of Cork’ by John Butts, from a few years later, corroborates much of the detail in Chearnley and Chearnley drew prospects of Kinsale, Youghal, and Dungarvin which feature no Billys at all, strongly suggesting that he did honestly draw what he saw in front of him and didn’t slip into some formula back at his studio.

Chearnley’s (and Butts’) depiction of distinctively rounded ‘bell gable’ profiles in his view of Cork, suggests a regional variation. Although comparatively rare in Dublin, ‘Bell gables’ were a very common profile in Dutch urban architecture in the first half of the 18th century. In Holland, ‘Neck gables’ with clasical pediments (frontons) are probably more characteristic of a slightly earlier period, the later 17th century.

The preference for ‘Bell gables’ in Cork, as depicted by Chearnley and Butts, is further corroborated by glimpses of gabled houses in the background of several 18th and 19th century prints, notably a view of the new Exchange at the centre of medieval Cork, where several Bell gables appear in the background, some apparently as modernisations of cagework houses.

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